Skip to content

Where Landon Donovan might play for the United States in coming World Cup qualifiers

Sep 4, 2013, 5:04 PM EDT

Donovan graphic

A few things we know about Landon Donovan as we ponder what might be ricocheting around in Jurgen Klinsmann’s brain ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica and Tuesday’s bitter border battle against Mexico:

Donovan can play pretty much any attacking position. The Galaxy and U.S. all-time leading scorer is clearly not at his best when manning the most advanced position; Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson and perhaps even Aron Johannsson are better options on the current 23-man roster.

Donovan lately has played most frequently in the second forward position, manning this role for the Galaxy, alongside Robbie Keane, and for the national team, where he sat slightly deeper in the midfield during that Gold Cup burst of statement matches. But that’s Clint Dempsey’s position in a U.S. shirt, and not even Donovan is taking that spot from Dempsey.

But where Donovan has aligned himself tactically lately does not mean much. Why is that? Because we also know that Klinsmann never fears placing his men into positions with which they are lesser familiar (although positions they have, perhaps, occupied previously).

Geoff Cameron as a hold midfielder? Sure!

DaMarcus Beasley or Jose Torres as a left back? Let’s give that a go! Eddie Johnson out wide? Sounds good!

Yes, Klinsmann will gladly roll the dice – and it’s a low risk gambit with someone like Donovan, who has a great soccer brain.

What that means, in a word, is “options.”

Look at the diagram above for where the 31-year-old attacker has been most often positioned in recent years.

source: Getty Images

Donovan is the United States’ all-time scoring leader with 56 goals.

He played frequently on the right last year for L.A., tending  to lean heavily inside and take on some of the advanced playmaking chores. That was mostly about providing balance for David Beckham’s tendency to create from deeper spots, and the Englishman’s tendency to drift right, the best place for whipping in those signature crosses.

But Donovan has also played along the left, both for the Galaxy and for his country. That’s where Bob Bradley used Donovan frequently in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup (and then slightly less once Dempsey begin playing out wide for the United States, as he did so much for Fulham back then.)

Again, Donovan leaned significantly inside, just as Dempsey did from that left-sided spot, clearing room for overlapping outside backs and adding pressure to defenses through wisely timed, diagonal runs.

Back in earlier days Donovan sometimes lined up a bit further back in the formation for the Galaxy as a central, attacking midfielder. The opposing defense that could not track his driving runs from that spot was a defense about to get shredded.

So, back to where Donovan lines up Friday? Some could depend on Altidore’s health. Either way, the best guess is that Donovan will come off the bench, a useful replacement for Graham Zusi on the right, or for Dempsey in the middle or for Fabian Johnson (or whomever lines up left). Whichever man looks gassed or just isn’t getting the job done … in comes Donovan.

(MORE: Donovan talks about his latest role with the national team)

Latest Posts
  1. Two left flying MLS flag for 2015 CONCACAF Champions League quarters

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Ignacio Piatti, Connor Lade, AP

    An all-MLS final appearance is impossible thanks to seeding, and Montreal and DC can only face-off if they win in the quarterfinals this winter.

  2. Introducing: “The 2 Robbies ‘Football’ Show” on NBCSportsRadio.com

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:38 AM EDT

    Earle-Mustoe

    The purpose of the show is for the Robbies to hear from the fans on this call-in show, so dial 855-323-4622 and have your say.

  3. El Clasico: Luis Suarez, Barcelona and Real Madrid together at last

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-REALMADRID-BARCELONA-CLASICO Getty Images

    El Clasico is upon us, and my goodness will it be a doozy between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday at the Bernabeu.

  4. Tear gas and rubber bullets used by Lille police against Everton fans

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:31 AM EDT

    France Lille Fan Violence AP

    French police had arrested a man for selling drugs, according to the BBC, and that earned the ire of already on-edge Everton supporters.

  5. Top European clubs prefer to play Qatar World Cup in May

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:44 AM EDT

    Qatar 2022

    The European Club Association includes at least one club from every nation in UEFA and includes Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona.

  6. Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama fearful of Ebola at Africa Cup of Nations

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:06 PM EDT

    Nigeria's Super Eagle goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama catches the ball during a World Cup 2014 qualifier football match against Ethiopia on October 13, 2013 in Addis Ababas. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA Getty Images

    Lille and Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama thinks it would be dangerous to hold the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ebola outbreak.

  7. Dunga, Brazil football federation create new code of conduct for national team

    Oct 23, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Carlos Dunga

    Brazil’s national football team has a new code of conduct under manager Dunga.

  8. WATCH: Spurs midfielder Erik Lamela strikes astounding ‘rabona’ goal

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-SHERIFF TIRASPOL

    Wonderful touch and power utilized on a first-class goal from Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Erik Lamela.

  9. Tottenham striker Harry Kane scores hat trick, then allows goal as emergency netminder

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane, left, and Aston Villa's Matthew Lowton. AP

    Harry Kane notched a hat trick in Tottenham’s Europa League victory over Asteras Tripoli, and he then found himself manning the goal as a netminder following a Hugo Lloris red card.

  10. Lille 0-0 Everton: Toffees stay unbeaten in Group H

    Oct 23, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    distin_3083675b Getty Images

    Lille and Everton played to a 0-0 draw at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Europa League group stage competition.

  11. Frank Lampard could be fit to play in City’s match vs. West Ham

    Oct 23, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT

    Lampard AP

    Manchester City’s Frank Lampard could be fit to play against West Ham in Premier League competition on Saturday.

  12. Cristiano Ronaldo on El Clasico: ‘I won’t be playing against Messi. I’ll be playing against Barcelona.’

    Oct 23, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    cristiano_ronaldo AP

    “I won’t be playing against Messi — I’ll be playing against Barcelona,” says Ronaldo, concerning his duel with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

  13. Brendan Rogers has faith in Balotelli, but noncommittal on striker’s future

    Oct 23, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    Balotelli AP

    Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers likes what Mario Balotelli has to offer, but he’s unsure if the forward will last a while at Anfield.

  14. VIDEO: Can Manchester United beat Chelsea? PST Extra breaks it down

    Oct 23, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    PST Extra - Oct. 23

    Will the Blues lose their first game of the season away at Old Trafford on Sunday? JPW and Prindi analyze that and more.

  15. Father auctions his son’s allegiance… Manchester United or Manchester City?

    Oct 23, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-MAN UTD Getty Images

    Little Eddie won’t have a say in who he supports, but it’s all for a good cause.

  16. Sunil Gulati backs Jurgen Klinsmann following MLS dispute, USMNT “on the same page”

    Oct 23, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT

    GulatiKlinsmann Getty Images

    Gulati: “Jurgen is our coach and technical director, and I fully expect that to be the case through to the 2018 World Cup.”

  17. Diego Costa remains a doubt for Chelsea amid illness, groin strain

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

    With Costa struggling to make the bench, plus Remy out, Chelsea are running out of strikers.

  18. All eyes on Origi: Tim Howard, Everton wary of on-loan Liverpool forward

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:04 AM EDT

    Belgium v USA: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Howard: “I know what he likes to do, but that doesn’t mean I will always be capable of stopping him.”

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?